High-quality, professional and academic are all adjectives used to describe the Brandeis International Journal. However, while these descriptions can at times be daunting to any new writer, publication board members pride themselves on the Journal’s warm community and focus on teaching.
The Journal, which prints once a semester, exists to promote not only discourse on international relations, but also to promote student academic-style work, explained Journal Editor-in-Chief Connor Wahrman ’17.
The writing process begins each semester with the submission of prospectuses, or short paragraphs describing what each writer wants to write about, why it is interesting and what initial sources will be used, explained Wahrman. From there, Wahrman and President Jake Silverman ’17 go through the proposals and decide which ones to accept.
“We usually accept all of them because they’re usually good,” Wahrman said. “Some of them are amazing,” Silverman chimed in. “We sometimes get crazy ones, but I won’t say on the record,” Silverman continued. As they do most things on campus, Wahrman and Silverman were interviewed by The Brandeis Hoot together, poking fun at each other almost the entire time. “We’ve been best friends since freshman year. “We can have long, drawn out, days long arguments and then go out to dinner and giggle about something,” Silverman said.
Once prospectuses are accepted, writers get paired with their regional editor, explained Wahrman. The regions include the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Central and South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. Over the course of the semester, writers submit outlines, first drafts, second drafts and third drafts. Following each submission, the editors send detailed feedback, according to Wahrman.
“We take who we give our editor slots to very seriously,” Silverman explained. Because the Journal produces such high-quality work, with a strong focus on writer improvement, it is important that editors put the time necessary into assuring all articles in their region are exceptional.
“We’ve had writers substantially improve the quality of their writing throughout the Journal process. It’s very much a learning process,” Wahrman said. “I know that my writing has totally improved.” Similar to being in a writing intensive course, the Journal pushes its writers to outline, use Chicago-style citations and revise drafts—all “valuable skills,” said Wahrman.
While the Journal has high standards, people begin writing with a range of experience, Wahrman said. For example, many first-year international students just coming to the United States submit great ideas but struggle with the writing, so editors work with them to make sure the final product meets the Journal standards, Silverman explained.
Each edition, while it consistently has at least three articles in each regional section, has an additional article from each region published in the “theme section.” Past themes have included “A Closer Look into North Korea,” “A Global Rise of Insurgency” and, last semester, “Body Politic: Gender and Sexuality in International Affairs.”
“Our theme for this semester is called ‘The Resistance: Contentious Politics in a Discontented World’ where contentious politics is just social protest, people versus the state,” Wahrman explained. For the edition, Wahrman plans to publish an article looking into how Black Monday, a huge, pro-choice protest in Poland near the end of 2016, tied trends in international feminism with anti-authoritarianism in Eastern Europe. This will be Wahrman’s eighth and final article for the Journal.
Silverman, on the other hand, plans to publish yet another article on China. “He’s the China guy,” explained Wahrman and confirmed by Silverman. “I read about China and am writing my thesis on Chinese policies … so every time, I [write] something about China.” In the past month, Silverman took the U.S. Foreign Service Exam and hopes to end up in China as a U.S. diplomat one day.
Wahrman and Silverman’s consistent contributions to the Journal, through articles, leadership and passion, have shaped the culture of the Journal. “When we started the journal, it had a bit of a business atmosphere,” said Silverman. Since becoming leaders on the board, they have taken themselves less seriously than past leaders and made the journal more open to its members, Wahrman explained. Rather than just being “a bunch of talking heads,” the two leaders ensure it is a collaborative and respectful environment.
“Neither of us are particularly ego driven in terms of our leadership, so it’s very much ‘where does the good idea come from’ as opposed to making sure one of us gets the credit or comes up with the good idea,” Silverman said. Each week, Silverman collects one article from each region editor to send out to the entire Journal group for discussion at the weekly meetings. The meetings, which are only mandatory for editors, has two components: reviewing article progress and chatting about topics of interest. “It’s a good community side to what the journal does,” Wahrman said.
As professional as the Brandeis International Journal is, thanks to Wahrman and Silverman, the editorial board and writers are able to function as both colleagues and friends. “I’m very much the meme Biden to his meme Obama,” joked Silverman. “I throw out crazy ideas and he reels me in,” Silverman laughed.